The picture's outspoken attitude to sex caused something of a sensation to audiences in the sixties. Now fifty years later the sexual machinations depicted all seem pretty mild. Nonetheless in its day the film amassed a vast teen following and today is remembered with some fondness mostly because of Max Steiner's theme music. The Young Love Theme the veteran Warner composer wrote for the movie (71 years old at the time) became a smash hit virtually overnight in the sixties when a cover version was recorded by the Percy Faith orchestra! This sunny little tune is still played and is just as catchy today as it was fifty years ago.
The versatile Steiner - fresh from scoring Warner's big cop epic "The FBI Story" and Daves' seminal Gary Cooper western "The Hanging Tree" - could cross over subject and thematic boundaries with little difficulty and score such things as this potent drama of teenage and adult love with equal dexterity. Besides the infectious Young Love Theme there is the picture's most dominant cue - The Adult Love Theme. This piece goes all the way back to 1932 when Steiner first wrote it for the Gary Cooper/Helen Hayes movie "A Farewell To Arms". But producer David O'Selznick rejected it at the time and the composer kept it on ice until he saw use for it 27 years later as the Main Theme for A SUMMER PLACE. And a blessing it is too for it works so wonderfully well in the later film! First heard over the titles - as the tide crashes against the rocks on the Maine Coast - it is given lush renditions throughout the picture. A hum-inducing, warm and thoroughly engaging piece with elegant harmonic stresses it is one of the composer's loveliest melodic inspirations. Its broadest and most ravishing versions are heard in the scenes with the older lovers (Egan and Maguire) for their nightly trysts in the boathouse ("I'm not pretty for you anymore - and I'm sorry about that"). Other lovely cues are the sprightly motif for Johnny and, scored for harp and strings, the tender music for scenes with Molly and her father. Also for scenes around the New England coast Steiner reuses another old piece of his - the sea cue he originally wrote for the 1946 Bette Davis picture "A Stolan Life".
With A SUMMER PLACE writer producer director Daves hit upon a winning formula for this kind of glossy and attractive looking motion picture. He went on to successfully write, produce and direct three similar type films and all starring Troy Donahoe - "Parrish" (1961), "Susan Slade" (1961), "Rome Adventure" (1962) and, one other without Donahue, "Spencer's Mountain" (1963). These four pictures also had exceptional scores by the exceptional Max Steiner.